Mosteller & Wallace Apply Computing in Disputed Authorship Investigation of The Federalist Papers


In the early 1960s American statistician Frederick Mosteller and David L. Wallace conducted what was probably the most influential and widely-publicized early computer-based authorship investigation in an attempt to identify the authorship of the twelve disputed papers in the The Federalist Papers by Alexander HamiltonJames Madison, and John Jay. With so much material to work with on the same subject matter by the authorship candidates this study was an ideal situation for comparative analysis. Mosteller and Wallace were primarily interested in the statistical methods they employed, but they were able to show that Madison was very likely the author of the disputed papers. 

Much of the news coverage on the Federalist Papers focused on their early application of computational power to statistics, an area in which Wallace would remain influential. But their work also was the first full-scale applied statistical analysis done using Bayesian methods.

Mosteller, F. and D. L. Wallace. Inference and Disputed Authorship: The Federalist. Reading, MA., 1964

Holmes, D. I. and R. S. Forsyth (1995). The Federalist Revisited: New Directions in Authorship AttributionLiterary and Linguistic Computing 10 (1995) 111–27.

A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. 

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